Who (Hu) Wins First in 2016 Letters About Literature Contest

By Rebekah Manley, Texas Center for the Book

The Library of Congress delegates this writing contest to the state Centers for the Book. As Director of The Texas Center, part of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, I invite you to encourage your students to share their personal experience with books. We want to know: how has a book brought you to laughter, tears or changed your life?

Dear Lemony Snicket,
Only when a clamshell opens up can you tell if there is a pearl inside. Like a clamshell, I opened up and found a valuable pearl within me after reading The Bad Beginning. This book transformed how I communicate with the world. Before, I was like a boarded up building and no one was able to get in. I was closed off from people around me and felt distant from everyone. Communication with the world was once something I felt was unnecessary, but after I read about the Baudelaires, I realized that my happiness was heavily influenced by my relationships with others, specifically my older brother. [excerpted with permission.]
This is the opening of the 2016 winning letter for grades 4-6. Winner Benjamin Hu read his letter to attendees at the TASL Business meeting in Houston in April 2016.

What is the contest? Letters About Literature is a forum for kids to share their reading stories. All 4-12 grade students are asked to write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. State winners earn a small cash prize; national winners a larger prize. You notice that Benjamin’s letter is about a popular title rather than one considered a Classic or one commonly taught in classrooms; students can choose any book that has touched their heart.

The Letters About Literature webpage offers dedicated resources to encourage participation and share with teachers at your school. Information on submission information and deadlines are detailed. Resource materials include:

“It is wonderful to see students articulate their passion for reading, said Texas State Library and Archives Director and Librarian Mark Smith. “The Letters About Literature contest makes a lasting literary connection between an author’s work and the lives of young readers.” Letters About Literature offers a creative and personal expression that students can share with parents, librarians, and educators as they begin their journey of life-long reading.

Last year more than 50,000 young readers from across the country participated in the Letters About Literature initiative funded by a grant from the LoC’s James Madison Council with additional support from the LoC Center for the Book.

For more information on the Letters About Literature Contest, including printable entry forms, educator resources and more visit tsl.texas.gov/lettersaboutliterature. You can also connect with us on our Facebook page.

We appreciate the special relationship school librarians have with their students and the pivotal role you play in fostering the love of reading. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Texas librarians to share this program. You librarians will already know how important this level of connection between readers and books is to literacy and learning in general; students who begin letters are beginning a journey to a love of reading and learning not fostered by standardized testing.

The Texas Center for the Book was established in 1987 and seeks to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. The Center builds partnerships with library professionals, educators, authors, publishers and booksellers who provide support to our shared mission of promoting a love of literature throughout the Lone Star State. One of 50 state centers affiliated with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Texas Center for the Book is under the direction of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission at the Lorenzo De Zavala State Archives and Library Building in Austin, Texas.

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